Definition of motif in English:


Line breaks: motif
Pronunciation: /məʊˈtiːf


  • 1A decorative image or design, especially a repeated one forming a pattern: the colourful hand-painted motifs which adorn narrowboats
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    • In addition to church furnishings and tombs, he specialized in the design of ornamental motifs, which he popularized in a series of engravings, 1548-77.
    • Included are geometrics, florals and foliates, animals and nature motifs and other decorative repeat patterns.
    • Crafted in gold or silver, medals were adorned with decorative motifs and appropriate inscriptions engraved by hand.
    design, pattern, decoration, figure, shape, logo, monogram, device, emblem, ornament
  • 1.1A decorative device applied to a garment or textile: floral or other motifs are then appliquéd to net veils
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    • Steamers are also found as a decorative motif on embroidered silk textiles.
    • Satin mini-skirts abound in a range of wild colors, some embroidered with floral motifs.
    • She was wearing black jeans, a red jumper with a lion motif and a black bodywarmer when she disappeared.
  • 2A dominant or recurring idea in an artistic work: superstition is a recurring motif in the book
    More example sentences
    • This distinctively narrative work presents a host of motifs that recur throughout Schreuders' printed works, including mermaids and sculpted figures.
    • Chapter 1 introduces a series of motifs that recur in subsequent chapters and carry similar associations with them.
    • There is no attempt to create a genre with recurring motifs like, for example, chick lit's shoes, sex, and Chardonnay.
  • 2.1 Music A leitmotif or figure (see figure ( sense 5 of the noun)): in this opera, Verdi used identifying motifs
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    • Counterpoint and repetition of motifs provide cohesiveness and musical logic.
    • His operas reveal careful dramatic planning, and his use of recurring themes and motifs frequently creates conceptual and musical unity within a work.
    • The arrangements are intelligent without being fussy: tuneful refrains for cello and woodwind, beguiling motifs for piano and vibes, emotional guitar and restrained drums.
  • 3 Biochemistry A distinctive sequence on a protein or DNA, having a three-dimensional structure that allows binding interactions to occur.
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    • Early on, clustering was used to detect common three-dimensional structural motifs in proteins.
    • Specifically, we defined two small but functionally important structural motifs within the Rux protein.
    • Consequently, particular sets of correlated peptides serve to define particular sets of homologous protein motifs within the data set.


mid 19th century: from French.

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